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Ideal (cycling) weight conundrum

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Ideal (cycling) weight conundrum

Old 07-08-12, 07:28 PM
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cocar
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Ideal (cycling) weight conundrum

Hello all, maybe you can help me. I kind of have the reverse problem from most people. I'm thin. I mean, actually too thin. At 5'4 and 100 lbs, I'm clinically underweight with a BMI of 17.2. I've always been on the small side, but I've been this extremely thin since having open heart surgery in 2007 (mitral valve replacement). I have been tested 6 ways from Sunday by the MDs, I am fine, they can't come up with any reason for the weight loss. I'm not on any kind of diet. I EAT. I've been actively trying to gain weight for the last couple of years with no success.

At any rate, I'm getting a bunch of conflicting information, both from the medical communtiy and the cycling community. I have one MD telling me it's imperative that I gain weight, even though all my tests are normal, and one telling me he thinks I'm fine, as long as I have enough fat to support my menstral cycle ( I do ). I'm also trying to figure out what my ideal weight would be for cycling. Some are saying just stay as thin as possible. According to a couple of published calculators, anything from 108 to 123 lbs is what I'm getting. Yes, I do lift weights, but always have, and being female, I don't see myself putting on a huge amout of muscle beyond what I already have (I'm a retired gymnast, so have some baseline muscle already).

So, thoughts? I am already eating a regular protein heavy diet, plus protein shakes. This is assuming I can actually gain weight, at which I've so far been totally unsuccesful. But I'm open to all ideas...except eating a ton of really junky food (upsets my stomach)
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Old 07-08-12, 10:04 PM
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I have a female cycling friend about the same size as you. She doesn't gain weight, either. Fast metabolism. Really hard to eat enough just to stay there. OTOH, wow can she climb! That said, climbing pros seem to run around 19-21 BMI. One might assume they're doing it right. I'm not sure the protein-heavy diet is right. You don't have much muscle to support. We can do a simple calculation. Say your bodyfat is 12% and luckily you weigh 100 lbs., so lean body mass is 88 lbs, so 1g/lb = 352 cal. protein per day. That's not very much. So maybe more carbs and fat, just increasing total calories and see what happens.
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Old 07-08-12, 10:18 PM
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Have to tried BCAA and CGT pre and post workout or ride? I've had good success building muscle mass with them.
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Old 07-08-12, 10:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Sea Green Sky View Post
Have to tried BCAA and CGT pre and post workout or ride? I've had good success building muscle mass with them.
+1. I don't know much about cycling as I'm just a beginner but I have been weight lifting for a few years and multi-sport training for about a year now.

Lots of proteins shakes have a good solid amount of protein in but lack BCAA's or creatine. See what your shake has and if your taking in less than 8g of BCAA's a day buy a bottle and mix it in with your current shake. It is said to help with cell regen and muscle stim. I like it and it has helped me.

I don't take creatine because the first couple weeks some people get a bloating effect and thats not going to help me in the water but lots of serious bodybuilders use it to help stimulate growth.
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Old 07-09-12, 02:04 AM
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If you are eating properly and are healthy and feel well, I'd ask what is the problem? Especially since, you say, you have retained some of the musculature from gymnastics. The only thing I'd say is make sure you keep up the resistance exercise to maintain bone density, because cycling won't help with that.

As for an ideal weight for cycling, that varies between individuals. It's about power/weight ratio. The ideal weight is to be as light as you can without losing the ability to put out the watts. This is usually expressed as watts per kilogram at FTP (functional threshold power). Without a power meter, it isn't possible to get this scientific. However, very very few cyclists complain about being too light. Bradley Wiggins, current leader in the Tour de France, has a BMI of 19.
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Old 07-09-12, 06:35 AM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
If you are eating properly and are healthy and feel well, I'd ask what is the problem? Especially since, you say, you have retained some of the musculature from gymnastics. The only thing I'd say is make sure you keep up the resistance exercise to maintain bone density, because cycling won't help with that.

As for an ideal weight for cycling, that varies between individuals. It's about power/weight ratio. The ideal weight is to be as light as you can without losing the ability to put out the watts. This is usually expressed as watts per kilogram at FTP (functional threshold power). Without a power meter, it isn't possible to get this scientific. However, very very few cyclists complain about being too light. Bradley Wiggins, current leader in the Tour de France, has a BMI of 19.
Honestly, I'm not 100% convinced that there is a problem. Except for that if I don't really pay attention to what I'm eating, my weight will fall under 100lbs, and then I start to look pretty unhealthily thin. But, like I said, I've got one doc telling me it's a problem and one doc telling me it isn't. Opinions vary.

Also, and this is more just an annoyance thing, if you're thin everyone has something to say about it, and they will say it right to your face. Everyone comments about my weight, even people that barely know me, accuse me of being anorexic, or tell me to eat more. Or, people that see me eating in public make incredibly rude comments about the amount of food that I eat, and where does it all go, etc? I just get sick of hearing about it. It seems like if you're overweight, nobody wants to say anything directly because it might be offensive, but if you're too thin, people will assume you did it on purpose and let anything come out of their mouths...

Last edited by cocar; 07-09-12 at 07:01 AM. Reason: grammar
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Old 07-09-12, 07:03 AM
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I'd suggest you respond to those who tell you you're too thin by staring silently, but pointedly, at their waistlines.

If you have been checked out (especially for digestive issues?) and everything comes back OK, and you think you're OK, you're probably OK. And as for the cycling, I'll bet you climb like a bird. Wish I could say the same.
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Old 07-09-12, 08:49 AM
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Yes, I've been thoroughly checked out, including a week long stay at the mayo clinic (NOT fun). Obviously the people that comment that I don't know/care about I just ignore, but it gets a little trickier when it's people that actually care about your well being (family, close friends). Especially when they are constantly trying to shove food down you all the time *groan* or telling you to quit cycling so you will gain weight (not happening)
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Old 07-09-12, 11:25 PM
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If you feel good then I'm not sure there is a problem, but if you want to try gaining weight I would recommend using the same process as you would if you were trying to lose. Keep careful track of how many calories you eat each day and estimate your caloric output. If you eat 300-500 Cals/day more than you are burning you will gain weight. You may need to experiment a little to find out what foods you can tolerate.

Have you tried, or do you have any interest in racing? Do you have any problems keeping up with group rides?
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Old 07-10-12, 06:22 PM
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if you fell healthy then screw it. However if you truly want to gain weight then you need to calculate your macros. Download a free calorie counter app for your phone and then record everything you eat for a given day. I can promise you it's less that what it should be based on how much you ride.

Once you have figured out your intake then its time to experiment a little. try upping your calorie intake by say 200-300 calories for the first week or two and see how your body reacts to it. As for a calorie breakdown the basics are this... Fat content on average is .5 grams per pound so for you thats about 50 grams, However based on your riding you can probably go higher and be just fine. For protein they say for the average it should be .5-1.0 grams per pound however for you I would lean towards the 1.0 which brings you to 100 grams of protein. Last is your carbs which you have the most flex with. With all your riding you can go pretty high in the 200 grams range.

Now remember after you do the intial calorie count look at what your breakdown is between all three catagories. If your already meeting these groups then you will need to adjust. To give you an example I'm 5'5" and 130. I only get to ride about twice a week (yeah I'm working on 3 times a week) but I also play soccer and weight train. My goal is 1800 calories, 145 grams of protein and my carbs i play with a bit. I aim for 200 on non riding days but when I ride it can get close to 300 grams
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Old 07-10-12, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by cocar View Post

if you're thin everyone has something to say about it, and they will say it right to your face. if you're thin, people will assume you did it on purpose and let anything come out of their mouths...
I get the same thing. Even from other bike racers who are better than I will ever be. Some people are simply inconsiderate about this. They're also jealous.

If you don't have any health drawbacks (i.e. missing periods) and you are happy with your performance on the bike (or whatever you do), don't worry about it. When it comes to cycling, everyone has an optimum weight for the condition they are in at the time. Run your body fat too low and you start getting sick more often and missing a meal is a catastrophe.
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Old 08-24-12, 07:24 PM
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I am shocked people are saying 5'4' 100 lbs is okay, are you people serious???
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Old 08-24-12, 09:39 PM
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I am shocked people are saying 5'4' 100 lbs is okay, are you people serious???
I for one agree, BUT, if you don't have a problem with it and you are healthy, then cool. On the other hand, if you truly want a couple extra pounds, then it isn't too hard to put on even for a hard gainer. I also have a fast metabolism, but with some effort, i have got my weight up. I already ate like a cow getting ready for slaughter, and had to eat more.
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Old 08-25-12, 08:31 AM
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100# / 5'4" = 1.6# per inch
According to Joe Friel, cyclist should be 2.5#/inch or less.
And the best climbers are 2.0#/inch or less.
At 3#/inch he suggests you shouldn't even bother standing up!

So, I'm curious - at under 1.6#/inch, can you coast going uphill?

It sounds to me like you are fine. But I have to admit my wife looked (and was) unhealthy at 5'4" and 100#. But one of the women in a group I ride with looks emaciated but seems totally healthy - and she really climbs!
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Old 08-25-12, 01:53 PM
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So, thoughts? I am already eating a regular protein heavy diet, plus protein shakes.
Is it a calorically heavy diet, though? For actually gaining weight, energy content is most important.

When I am riding, I have to stuff back calories in the form of dense carbs, or I lack energy and my weight plummets.

Last edited by tadawdy; 08-25-12 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 08-25-12, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
100# / 5'4" = 1.6# per inch
According to Joe Friel, cyclist should be 2.5#/inch or less.
And the best climbers are 2.0#/inch or less.
At 3#/inch he suggests you shouldn't even bother standing up!

So, I'm curious - at under 1.6#/inch, can you coast going uphill?

It sounds to me like you are fine. But I have to admit my wife looked (and was) unhealthy at 5'4" and 100#. But one of the women in a group I ride with looks emaciated but seems totally healthy - and she really climbs!

For the little short hills we have here, yes. I live in central florida, and it's basically flat as a pancake! We don't have any "real" hills to climb, so it's a little hard to say. About the only things to climb around here are flyover bridges, and I don't usually have any problems, except the one day that I was having heat exhaustion (it was 100 degrees and 98% humidity, and at the end of a long ride). But yes, generally I pass everyone climbing.
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Old 08-25-12, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
Is it a calorically heavy diet, though? For actually gaining weight, energy content is most important.

When I am riding, I have to stuff back calories in the form of dense carbs, or I lack energy and my weight plummets.
I'm eating around 2500-3000 calories a day. And I do eat a fair amount of dense carbs.
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Old 08-25-12, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by blueduckxx View Post
I am shocked people are saying 5'4' 100 lbs is okay, are you people serious???
Entirely serious. If she's eating properly and in good health and everything checks out normally, what is the problem?
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Old 08-25-12, 04:55 PM
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Some people are just built really light.
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Old 08-26-12, 10:58 AM
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If you are healthy, you are healthy.

Have you had your bone density checked?
That can be an issue with skinny women.
Between the thin bones and the cycling, I'd mix
in some weight bearing exercise.

Anyway, the big concern seems to be preventing weight loss.
That shouldn't be too hard. Peanut butter, sunflower butter.

How are your iron levels. You want to stay on top of that.

I'd suggest taking 2,000iu Vitamin D daily.

Most people should be taking Omega 3.
So if you aren't, I'd jump on that. CVS has a new algae based
Omega 3 called Algol. That's what we take.
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Old 09-02-12, 10:31 AM
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because I WAS at 100 lbs and 5'4' and severely anorexic. a females body simply cannot function properly at that weight for a long time, at all. The lady is obviously on something which isnt surprising.

you guys are insane, wait, this IS a forum filled with mostly males, so you honestly wouldnt understand what is or is not a right weight for a woman. I dealt with it for years, fully recovered now, I think I know a thing or two.
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Old 09-02-12, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by blueduckxx View Post
because I WAS at 100 lbs and 5'4' and severely anorexic. a females body simply cannot function properly at that weight for a long time, at all. The lady is obviously on something which isnt surprising.

you guys are insane, wait, this IS a forum filled with mostly males, so you honestly wouldnt understand what is or is not a right weight for a woman. I dealt with it for years, fully recovered now, I think I know a thing or two.
I'm sure you do know a thing or two - about you. The OP, from her own account, is clearly not anorexic. She's aware she is underweight and is eating to address that. She has sought medical advice and there appears to be nothing wrong. She feels healthy and is exercising.

What exactly would you prescribe, and why?
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Old 09-02-12, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by blueduckxx View Post
because I WAS at 100 lbs and 5'4' and severely anorexic. a females body simply cannot function properly at that weight for a long time, at all. The lady is obviously on something which isnt surprising.

you guys are insane, wait, this IS a forum filled with mostly males, so you honestly wouldnt understand what is or is not a right weight for a woman. I dealt with it for years, fully recovered now, I think I know a thing or two.
Sweeping generalizations are generally not correct.

I'm female and my daughter is about the same size as the OP. She's not anorexic either, just very petite. She's been on the low end of the weight charts since she was a baby and her body functions just fine.

Some people are ectomorphs and just have trouble gaining weight.
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Old 09-02-12, 02:16 PM
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My bone density has been checked and is normal. My Vitamin D levels were checked 3 months ago and were normal, so I'm not sure about taking extra. I love peanut butter and eat lots of it.

Omega 3 is probably a good idea. I'll see about getting some.
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Old 09-02-12, 02:42 PM
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I'm sorry for your struggle with anorexia. But just as you assert that the men cannot understand what the right weight for a woman is, you cannot know what the is the right weight for me, in my situation. You have no clue of my frame size, muscle mass, body fat, anything. And to say that I must be "on something" is ludicrous.

I've been at this weight for about 3 years, and apparently my body is functioning just fine. None of the multiple doctors involved in my care have even suggested that I might be anorexic. The only meds I take are those to manage my cardiac issues and maintenance drugs for bipolar disorder, and those drugs tend to make people gain weight. No, my psychiatrist does not think I'm anorexic either, and he's been treating me for 8 years.

Oops...was supposed to quote blueduckxx above
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